Thursday, November 04, 2004

Inside Report by One Elections Pollworker

On Nov 2, I had the first-time privilege of being a precinct officer (fancy word for pollworker). I'd volunteered for many elections, but this was my first appointment by the county Registrar of Voters (ROV).

I wanted to be a pollworker for this particular election for 2 reasons: First, to honor, support and be part of the democratic process. Voting is an enormous privilege and responsibility, and people are only free when they can vote to decide the course of their government. Second, I wanted to do my part to ensure that the election in my family's corner of the world was fair. It was, indeed, fully non-partisan, and undoubtedly fair and complete.

Normal turnout, sans absentee ballots and early voting, ranges from 30 to 50%. Tuesday, our precinct turnout hovered around 80%. It was thrilling: every voter was on fire to express their opinion. The electorate was energized, and every voter was convinced that their vote mattered.

It was thrilling...and incomprehensibly exhausting. All went well. Our voter qualification lists were quite accurate and updated. Electronic voting worked perfectly. Voters were courteous, friendly and scrupulously non-partisan. Our 8-person volunteer team processed a record 1020 ballots, and about 50 provisional ballots for voters with registration problems. My task to was initially identify and qualify voters at the front door, and I assisted 569 citizens to vote in 13 hours.

A few images of Nov 2 will stay with me.....

- The Spanish-speaking woman who became a US citizen just 3 weeks ago. With the assistance of her adult daughter, she was deeply touched to cast her first ballot for the Presidency.

- The mother assisting her adult Downs-syndrome son to vote. "He follows it all on TV," she said. "He loves to vote. He insists on voting."

- The many elementary-aged children who came so that they could watch their parents vote.

- The college students who came home from campus to cast their votes.

- The innumerable families that ensured that every household member voted....mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. (We joked that a few families were so large, that they could sway the elections.)

- Two especially elderly citizens...a man and a woman...who each struggled fragilely in on walkers, sample ballots in hand, determined to voice their opinions.

It was physically demanding work. I went 4 hours at a time without standing or stretching. We subsisted on microwaved hot dogs, chips and candy bars. My total break time was perhaps 20 minutes. My biggest concern was that, by mid-afternoon, my eyes were swollen and a bit blurry.

I haven't written about procedures and controls in place to ensure that voting is complete and accurate. It's boring, detailed stuff, although incredibly important to the voting process. I stayed until 10 PM to make sure the inspector could reconcile the ballot count. It was a kick to see summarized electronic voting results for our precinct long before the ROV, press and voting public. Current voting procedures are cumbersome, but are designed to assure all that electronic voting is safe and secure....not designed for effiiciency.

The integrity of pollworkers at our location was at the highest level, and most workers were pleasant, sociable and flexible. One woman brought new meaning to nit-picking and finger-pointing, but thank God I wasn't teamed with her.

They want me to return for future elections. Would I return? Yes, gladly. It's a great way to support our community and country. But it would be nice if voter turnout was a bit less.....

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